Here´s Om´s skeptical analysis of the new Clearwire, the US Wimax operator in which Google who is also an investor in Fon contributed $500 million. We at Fon are not so skeptical. Indeed we believe that this is great news for consumers in general and potentially for foneros in particular.

Fon´s first existence was about Wimax not WiFi. But in 2004 it was too early for Wimax and we moved on to the inmensely popular WiFi with our Fonera and thanks to it and telco partners like BT, Neuf in France or Livedoor in Japan we built the largest WiFi network in the world. As of last week we had over 200K WiFi hotspots compared to less than 30K of T Mobile. But in a couple of years Fon would love to help our community members empowering them with not a WiFi but a Wimax fonera. A Wimax fonera is just like a Fonera, meaning a wireless transmitter connected to DSL, fiber or cable, but it sends Wimax. We have such prototype and we could make them for $200 or less. For rural areas Wimax is fine with huge towers a la GSM but for urban areas our army of Foneros is a much more efficient way of distributing signal. Of course foneros would want free services for them as donors but we believe Wimax operators will be happy to have some customers use their services for free and save billions in infrastructure deployment.

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andres on May 8, 2008  · 

I allways thougt that turning from wifi to wimax would mean that you would be the owner of the world’s biggest telco, for free.

That is a revolution Martin

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Gubatron on May 8, 2008  · 

WiMax foneras? Count me in.
Now you’re talking Varsavsky.

I knew you had something to say about clearwire, didn’t expect it to be so big.

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XL on May 8, 2008  · 

Well Martin, honestly I think that US market is very different from european market, specially for the the density of the population, people in the states live in suburbs, in europe we don’t have space and we live in mega downtowns, so I think each continents should have his own different solution…

In an European city, a fonera with fontena, should be capable to provide internet acces to 30 houses in USA will be very difficult to provide internet to 4 houses.

So for me it’s clear that in USA Wi Max could be a good solution, but in Europe it will be too expensive in terms of infrastructures, also everybody knows the problems that telecom companies are having to install his antenas, so will be the same for the wimax net???

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Peter Graw on May 8, 2008  · 

What about current Foneros? Will we have to change our current Foneras?


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alvaro on May 8, 2008  · 

Promoting that kind of venture in other territories would such a good deal…

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Roetzen on May 8, 2008  · 

This is interesting. I will happily try it out when ready.

There is a catch however. Contrary to WiFi, in most courties, if not all, the use of Wimax frequencies requires a license. Will FON acquire Wimax licences for use by Foneras?

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Eric on May 8, 2008  · 

Fon Wimax is cooming! , I like that name, it sounds pretty good .

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Paul RODTS on May 8, 2008  · 

The big difference between WiMAX and Wi-Fi is, that WiMAX is a mostly ‘master-slave’ oriented technique, which means that the base station has full control over the transmissions. So a WiMAX-system has a better QoS, but such a network needs planning and can not be rolled out at random (like Wi-Fi).
To have an coverage with acceptable speeds, a WiMax base station also needs sophisticated (roof top) antennas. For this kind of antennas you need a lease from the owners of this building and a building permit (in most European countries). Let’s go to the situation in Belgium where the 3 different regions have their own laws for building permits : In Brussels Clearwire stopped it’s roll out, because a normal roll out was not possible, due to the problematic building permit laws in Brussels. In Flanders, where there are more flexible laws for getting those building permits, the Clearwire network is active in university cities like Ghent and Leuven, but it works mostly at rather slow speeds, because they under estimated the number of base stations they needed for a fast and reliable network. To let it work in an acceptable way, they will need much more base stations, for which they can never get enough leases and/or building permits to place all those antennas…

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ddluk on May 8, 2008  · 

I can test that in Poland if you want.

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Charbax on May 12, 2008  · 

This is awesome news, I’ve been waiting for this for a while. I wonder following:
1. Why does it have to cost $200 per WiMax fonera? Is the hardware much more complicated to build then a normal WiFi-only fonera?
2. Can you deploy WiMax in a sort of random way like the normal WiFi-only Foneras? Can the WiMax bandwidth this way cleverly be managed, is there no interference issues if for example there are 5 WiMax foneras installed in the same building? If there was some way to combine the 5 WiMax foneras, for example accumulate the bandwidth perhaps even combine the overall bandwidth.
3. Can you make the WiMax Fonera also broadcast a normal WiFi FON signal as well, meaning the same box does one WiMax FON signal and one normal WiFi FON signal?
4. Does it do roaming just as well as any big and expensive WiMax base station?
5. Can you also do this for the 700mhz White Spaces using Google’s deployment model on that spectrum? (considering Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama probably will allow it, and other countries should also use their 700mhz spectrum soon). How is 700mhz White Spectrum WiMax different from 2500mhz Clearwire/Sprint WiMax?

I’m looking forward to this revolution, and I hope that you will make it happen sooner then in two years.

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Anna on May 14, 2008  · 

Well, it must be true, a new fonera for wimax is coming: this weekend i bought a new fonera and today i’ve recieved a fonera model 2100. Old stock? I don’t understand how can still selling those toaster foneras as new…
Take care.

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Martin Varsavsky on May 16, 2008  · 

No Peter Graw,

The foneras will send wifi and the wimax foneras wimax.

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ddluk on May 18, 2008  · 

So Martin when could we test that wimax foneras??

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blinker on May 19, 2008  · 

WiMAX as technology is fine, and solve many basic pillars needed on a truly access technology (scheduled access, true QoS with independent UL/DL traffic flows).
Two considerations;
A) If we are talking about running this technology in free bands…fine….but who is going to pay the towers and monthly costs (power, transmission, site renting…)??. Running WiMAX (or WiFi) in 700Mhz and mesh it…this is another story…then you could solve the two problems in one.

B) WiMAX as FON is deployed today lack the clients that WiFi has and it’s no bringing any additional benefit. When it’s used as a regular WiFi AP (power/antenna), the coverage goes to the same levels than a regular AP.

My 0.02

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Martin Varsavsky on May 20, 2008  · 


Not anytime soon, first we need to make deals with wimax operators.

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